Two is company, but it’s not always possible. If you’re a senior living alone, you probably already understand the joys (and headaches) of what it’s like to fly solo. According to the Pew Research Center, you’re in good company: 12 million American seniors are the sole residents in their home. It can be a freeing situation – but it also has inherent risks.
“As we age, living alone becomes more and more difficult, not to mention dangerous,” says Lauren Kessler, Executive Administrator of Bartley Healthcare. “Incidents like falls, power outages and simple oopsies can become severe when you’re living on your own. This doesn’t mean that you should have to be afraid to live in your own home. It simply means that older adults should take precautions and put plans in place to keep themselves safe.”
The most important thing seniors can do to help keep themselves safe is by connecting with a trusted family member and sharing their concerns and plans, Lauren says. “Having someone outside your home be someone you can rely on to back you up is a great way to ensure that any plans you put in place will be followed through on,” she says.
In honor of National Safety Month, here are some simple things that seniors can do to make their home a safe haven.
Have emergency numbers handy.
When an emergency happens, you don’t want to waste precious time looking for how to connect with the services you need. Always make sure that there’s a list of emergency numbers by all the phones in your home, in large enough print that it’s easy to read. If you don’t have a landline and only have a cell phone, use the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency) and the name of the service so you can quickly access it through your contact. Be sure to have numbers for:
- Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)
- Trusted family member or friend
- Your healthcare provider
Fall-proof your home as much as possible.
Falls are the number one reason seniors visit the emergency room each year. One of the scariest things about living alone, especially for seniors, is the potential to fall. The National Institute on Aging estimates that one in four seniors falls every year, and that falls are the leading cause of fatal injury to older adults. But there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to protect yourself against falls.
- If balance or walking is a concern for you, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider and have a fall risk assessment done. Based on the results of the assessment, you may have concrete things you can do to make your living situation safer.
- Move tripping hazards such as wires and cords out of your walking path and make sure your bathroom and other hard surfaces in your house are covered with large, slip-free mats or carpets.
- Look into exercise programs and techniques (like yoga or swimming) that you can use to build up your strength and balance and prevent falls.
- Consider buying a wearable alarm that you can push if you fall and aren’t able to alert emergency services in another way.
- Consider investing in a few nightlights to keep around the house to light your path if you have to get up in the middle of the night.
- Take your time and don’t rush. Most people fall because they’re in a hurry to do things like answer the phone or get the door. Instead, remember to take it slow – better to be cautious than rash.
- Choose to wear nonslip footwear at all times, like slippers with rubber buttons or thin shoes that grip the floor. If you use a cane or walker to get around, make sure there are non-slip bottoms on the legs to help you be as sturdy as possible.
- If you have a cane or a walker, use it at all times instead of holding onto walls and furniture.
Be prepared for power outages.
Power outages aren’t just annoying – they can cause severe issues if it keeps you from getting food, water or essential services. Make sure that your home is prepared for power outages (or other natural disasters) by keeping flashlights, batteries, candles and matches on every floor of your house in easily accessible locations. Just as you would with your smoke alarms, be sure to test them (or replace the batteries) twice a year. You may also want to consider investing in a generator so that if power goes down, you will still be able to access some utilities.
Protect your home against fire and other dangers.
Fires can happen quickly, and if they catch you off guard, they can easily sweep through your home. Take precautions to make sure your home is as fire-proof as possible. Here are some tips:
- Don’t wear loose or long clothes when cooking.
- Check appliances and cords and replace anything that’s damaged or fraying.
- If a fire occurs in your home, don’t try to put it out. Leave and call 911.
- Know at least two exits to your home that allow you to get out safely and quickly. Map out how you would escape your home should a fire occur in different areas, since your plan may change depending on the fire’s location.
- Install a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms. Make sure yours is properly installed and test it once a month. You’ll also want to replace all smoke alarms at least every 10 years.
- Never smoke in bed or leave candles burning, even for a short time, in an empty room.
- Make sure heaters are at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding or furniture. Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
Manage your medications.
Medication mismanagement is common among seniors, who have a lot of different medications to keep straight. Unfortunately, this can lead to all sorts of unfortunate side effects. Make sure you’re keeping yourself as safe as possible by:
- Keeping all medications in their original containers so you don’t mix up medicines.
- Ask your pharmacist to put large-print labels on your medications to make them easier to read.
- Bring all of your pill bottles with you to your healthcare provider’s appointments so he or she can look at them and make sure you are taking them correctly.
- Invest in a smart pill box that dispenses medications on an appropriate basis. Some of them can even send you reminders on your cell phone.
Protect against elder abuse.
Sadly, senior adults are at risk of being abused or otherwise attacked by unsavory characters – and even members of their own family. It’s important to take steps to ensure your safety and understand the ever-changing issues and scams that are out there. A few tips:
- Keep your windows and doors locked at all times.
- Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone.
- Do not share your personal information, such as social security number, credit card, bank information, or account passwords, with people you do not know who contact you.
- Always ask for written information about any offers, prizes, or charities and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly.
- Do not let yourself be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts or making donations. Remember that a real charity or organization will be fine with you calling back later after discussing with a family or friend. It is never rude to wait and discuss your plans.
“If you or a loved one are finding it harder and harder to live safely on your own, it may be worth considering a move to a senior living community like Bartley Healthcare,” says Lauren. “These types of communities are designed to meet the specific needs of aging seniors and help them avoid the safety and security issues that can come from living alone. Moving into a community can ensure a high quality of living for years to come.”
Exceptional Care. Experience You Trust.
As a family-owned, privately operated community, Bartley Healthcare has been a leader of health and eldercare services and maintained an excellent reputation for over 34 years.
At Bartley Healthcare, we strive to provide an exceptional care experience to all of our residents and families. Our commitment results in positive outcomes that enhance your life, no matter what services you need. From our patient and resident satisfaction surveys to our awards and accreditations, we have experience you can trust.
For more information or to schedule a tour, contact our team today at 732-372-4055.